IV.i Art and Archaeology

This is a subject-based collection relating to Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

While the School was formed as a language teaching and research institution, books on art and archaeology were well represented in the early history of the Library’s collections, reflecting the fact that art, art history, architecture, and archaeology were some of the most popular subjects of the School’s public lectures in the 1920s.  By the 1950s, the School’s collection on art and archaeology was already strong on Indian and Islamic art, including almost complete sets of the various series from the Archaeological Survey of India, starting from the mid 19th century.

Courtauld Collection

In 1950, the collector and scholar, Sir Percival David (1892-1964), presented his collection of the world’s finest Chinese potteries and porcelains to the School, prompting the transfer of the Chair in Chinese Art and Archaeology (the first such in the UK) from the Courtauld Institute of Art to the Percival David Foundation and then, in 1957, the transfer of the Courtauld Library’s Asian collection to SOAS.  The Courtauld collection comprised 3,750 books, approximately 15,000 photographs, 7,000 lantern slides and other materials.  The main emphasis of this collection was on the art and archaeology of China and East Asia, including a large section of Chinese and Japanese texts.  In addition there were sections on India, Southeast Asia and Central Asia.  The collection was combined with the books already held in the SOAS Library.

Eumorfopoulos Collection

The Courtauld collection, enriched with many gifts and bequests, includes items bequeathed by, the art collector and businessman, George Eumorfopoulos (1863-1939).  A notable item from his bequest is one of the twenty extant sets of gigantic monochrome collotype prints mounted as twelve hanging scrolls of the 7th century wall paintings in the Main Hall of the Horyuji temple in Japan.  The prints, which were produced in 1935, comprised four large scrolls, each about 3 metres high and 2.5 metres wide, and eight smaller scrolls, each 3 meters by 2 meters.  The original Hōryūji wall paintings were irreparably damaged by fire in 1949, and thus these full-size facsimiles are the surviving record of their beauty and magnificent scale.  In October 2007, one of the large scrolls was shown in an exhibition entitled Objects of instruction:  treasures of the School of Oriental and African Studies in the Brunei Gallery.  Eumorfopoulos’ immense personal library also includes a number of books on East Asian art in Chinese and Japanese texts, a number of rare Oriental art books and periodicals published in Japan in the early 20th century

Significant gifts

Acquisition of items during the first half of the School’s history was distinguished by gifts from notable people, the School’s teachers and governors.  Frederick Anderson, governor of the School from 1917-1939 and Lord Harlech, Chairman of the Governing Body from 1945-1951, presented 18th – 19th century Japanese colour prints, book illustrations, and sketch albums.  The most outstanding part of the collection comprises portraits of kabuki actors by Shunshō, Shunkō and Shun’ei of the Katsukawa school in the late 18th century.  These were also shown in the Brunei Gallery’s 2007 exhibition.

Objects of Instruction:  Treasures of the School of Oriental and African Studies , Brunei Gallery exhibition (2007) (21)
  • A magnificent 12.5m long painted scroll, depicting the procession of the Korean delegation to Japan in the mid-17th century.  This detailed pictorial record in brilliant colour and gold on paper has been published several times in Japan and it has also been on display at the British Museum.  The scroll was one of the items bought by Professor Frank Daniels from a large sum made available as a result of the Scarborough report in 1947.  His book buying trip to Japan in 1950 also enabled the Library to purchase a rare complete set of Kōgei, a journal of Japanese folk crafts, 1931-1951
  • Two examples from the Chinese woodblock prints collection of deities, New Year pictures, calendars, theatrical pictures and historical events, produced mainly from 1880-1920
  • Portraits of kabuki actors by Shunshō, Shunkō and Shun’ei of the Katsukawa school in the late 18th century
Library displays

Three more examples of the Chinese prints are on public display throughout the Library:

  • A late 19th century print, depicting an episode from a popular Ming dynasty romance;
  • A 19th century print near the staircase depicting a travelling scholar accompanied by his servant in winter (Level C)
  • A fine example of an ink rubbing of incised stone stele depicting Guanyin (Level C).

Today, the materials relating to art and archaeology collection are in diverse formats.

Print material: Approximately 50,000 books and several hundred periodical titles.  Books and periodicals in Asian vernacular languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Arabic. Turkish and Hebrew are well represented.

Non-print material: Photographs, slides, sketches, prints, rubbings, paper cuts and more recently, audio-visual material such as videos and DVDs.

Slides, a vital resource for the teaching of art history in the 20th century, have been replaced by digital images on databases or on the internet.  In the latter case, a number of digital images from the selection of the School’s Japanese prints, Chinese albums of paintings and the 18th century Ottoman costume books are available through the Bridgeman Art Library.

The photograph collection, which was acquired mainly through gifts, comprises albums of black and white and artistic hand-coloured photographs of India, the Middle East and East Asia from the 1880s to the 1940s, along with a vast number of individual photographs.  Of special interest is a collection of the early photographic records of Buddhist painting and sculpture of Dunhuang in China in 1935.


The Art and Archaeology collections have been fortunate in continuing to receive grants and funding from external sources, such as the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures to purchase Japanese art books, the Metropolitan Centre for Far Eastern Art Studies to purchase East Asian art books published in Japan, and royalties from a digital images project with the Bridgeman Art Library.

External Library Groups

The subject librarian for Art and Archaeology is a member of ARLIS/UK & Ireland: the Art Libraries Society (22) and the Library Committee on the History of Art.
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IV.ii L aw

The Library develops and maintains significant legal collections on the countries of Asia, Africa and the Middle East (excluding the Roman-Dutch jurisdictions), not otherwise available in the United Kingdom.  The material is in European, Asian and African languages and includes current legislation, law reports, official gazettes and monographs.
The collection is particularly strong on customary law, Islamic law and the laws of South Asia (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh).

South Asian Law

For Indian law, the library collects the main All India Reporter containing current case reports and legislation for India. The library also collects individual law reports for each state. The library collects the Bangladesh Legal Decisions and Dacca Law Reports containing current case reports and legislation for Bangladesh. The library collects the All-Pakistan Legal Decisions and the Pakistan Law Reports containing current case reports and legislation for Pakistan.


SOAS Library subscribes to a variety of specialised databases. These include access to the primary material of the United Kingdom, European Union, United States and International law (Westlaw, LexisLibrary, HeinOnline, Oxford Reports on International Law and Justis). The library also subscribes to a number of databases containing foreign law – iSinolaw, Beida LawinfoChina and Chinese Studies Online for Chinese law (in Chinese with English translations); Manupatra for Indian law and LawnB for South Korean law.

Law Librarian

The post of subject librarian for Law was created in 2003 in order to provide much-needed, focused support for the Law School. Traditionally, the subject librarian for each region has selected law publications on and from the region, and in relevant regional languages.
The Law librarian is concentrating on collection development for the discipline which includes building the foreign, international and comparative law collections.

External Library Groups

The Law librarian is a member of IALLL (23) (International Association of Law Libraries) and an active member of BIALL (24) (British and Irish Association of Law Librarians).  Each of these associations represents the interests of legal information professionals and provides a forum (nationally and internationally) for networking and information sharing.

SOAS is also a member of the FLARE Group (25) , a collaboration between the major libraries collection law in the UK, alongside the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Bodleian Law Library, Squire Law Library and the British Library.  It is working to improve the coverage and accessibility of foreign legal materials at the national level and to raise expertise in their use.
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(21) See:  http://www.soas.ac.uk/news/newsitem36448.html  [viewed 21 April 2010]
(22) See: http://www.arlis.org.uk/ [viewed 21 April 2010]
(23) See: http://www.iall.org/ [viewed 27 April 2010]
(24) See: http://www.biall.org.uk/ [viewed 27 April 2010]
(25) See: http://ials.sas.ac.uk/flare/flare.htm [viewed 27 April 2010]

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